I have played soccer throughout my life and have loved every second of it! Well, most of it at least. There were times as a kid where games seemed to drag on with no end in sight, which always got me thinking:
How long are soccer games?
Professional and college soccer games are 90 minutes long and are broken up into two 45-minute halves. Extra time is played when a winner needs to be declared, such as in tournaments. Professional games also have added time. Younger age groups play less than 90 minutes and may play quarters.
Soccer games tend to go by pretty quick, as the game-length is predetermined and the clock is always running. With that said, there are many aspects that factor into added time, extra time, and how long soccer games are to begin with.
Throughout this article, you’ll find more information on each of these topics, as well as much more!
How Long Are Professional Soccer Games?
Professional soccer games are exciting and fast-paced. While the average professional game lasts nearly two hours, the speed and skill at which they are played often leaves fans wanting even more action when the game is over.
Most professional soccer leagues, including Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), follow the match length spelled out in the FIFA rule book.
FIFA Law 7 lays out several key guidelines for the length of play, half time intervals, and accommodations for lost play as follows:
- Periods of play – The match lasts two equal periods of 45 minutes, unless otherwise mutually agreed between the referee and the two teams. Any agreement to alter the duration of the periods of play (e.g. to reduce each half to 40 minutes because of insufficient light) must be made before the start of play and must comply with competition rules.
- Half-time intervals – Players are entitled to an interval at half-time. The half-time interval must not exceed 15 minutes. Competition rules must state the duration of the half-time interval. The duration of the half-time interval may be altered only with the consent of the referee.
- Allowance for time lost – Allowance is made in either period for all time lost through: substitutions, assessment of injury to players, removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment, wasting time, or any other cause. The allowance for time lost is at the discretion of the referee.
- Penalty kick – If a penalty kick has to be taken or retaken, the duration of either half is extended until the penalty kick is completed.
The fourth official on the field, usually positioned between the two teams on the sideline, signals the minimum additional time decided by the referee at the end of the final minute of each half. Additional time may be increased by the referee, but not reduced.
The referee must not compensate for a timekeeping error during the first half by changing the length of the second half. In other words, once the second half starts, the stoppage time resets.
If a game that has been started cannot be finished, for whatever reason, it is called an abandoned match. Abandoned matches should be replayed unless the competition rules or organizers determine otherwise.
How Long Are College and High School Soccer Games?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Soccer Rules Book captures the duration of a college soccer game and overtime extensions in Law 7, stating that games consist of two periods of 45 minutes.
In the event of a tie game, the following rules are outlined in Law 7:
- Penalty kicks must always be given, even it results in a game extension. Whether the penalty takes place in regulation time or overtime, play is extended to allow penalty kicks to be taken.
- Two 10-minute overtime halves will be played. These overtime halves are to follow sudden-victory rules, which means the first team to score within overtime wins the game.
- Before the start of overtime, the visiting team will call a coin toss, with the winner deciding to start with the ball or choosing which way they want to go.
- If a second overtime half is needed, the teams will switch ends of the field before the start of the period.
- If the score is still tied at the end of the second overtime half, the game will be recorded as a tie.
For regular-season games, a game can end in a tie once extra time plays out. For postseason games, which include conference tournaments and NCAA tournament games, overtime will be played.
Overtime is only played when a winner needs to be declared. If the game remains a tie after overtime concludes, the game will move to a penalty shootout to determine who advances.
High School teams follow state-governed game rules, most of which are in line with the National Federation of State High School Associations.
High School soccer games are slightly shorter than college games, with two 40 minute halves, for a total of 80 minutes of play.
They contain one 10 minute halftime, which can be shortened if the referee and coaches from both teams agree to the reduction in time before the start of the game.
High school teams are allotted two overtime halves, 10 minutes each, to break a tie game. This rule is slightly different from state to state.
How Long Are Youth Soccer Games?
The length of youth soccer games is determined by the age group. There are differences in the length of the game, overtime halves, and how the game is broken up based on the age of the kids.
As found in the US Youth Soccer rules of the game, the length of the game by age group is laid out as follows:
- 17U, 18U, 19U – Two 45 minute halves with two 15 minute overtime halves
- 15U & 16U – Two 40 minute halves with two 15 minute overtime halves
- 13U & 14U – Two 35 minute halves with two 10 minute overtime halves
- 11U & 12U – Two 30 minute halves with two 10 minute overtime halves
- 9U & 10U – Two 25 minute halves with no overtime
- 6U, 7U, & 8U – Four 10 minute quarters with no overtime
Overtime halves are only played when a game ends in a tie and a winner needs to be declared. For example, multi-team tournaments or a championship game will use overtime to determine which teams move forward and ultimately win.
If a team scores enough goals to win the game within the first half of overtime, the second overtime is not played, and the game is over.
In 10U and younger leagues, games end at the end of regulation time. Younger age groups tend to focus more on player development, dribbling and passing, discipline, and teamwork, instead of the focus being on winning.
What Is Added Time in Soccer?
Added time, also referred to as stoppage time, is the additional time that is added to the end of halves to make up for lost time due to substitutions, injuries, and other game delays.
Referees adhere to FIFA Law 7 to account for lost time allowance. Referees capture time lost for substitutions, injuries, disciplinary actions, delays, and more. This time is then added to the end of each half in which the incidents took place.
For example, if five minutes are lost due to an injured player on the field in the first half of a game, five minutes is added to the end of the first half to make up for that lost time.
Added time is announced shortly before the 45-minute and 90-minute marks in the first and second halves of a game. The game continues for a minimum of the announced time until the referee blows their whistle to signal the end of the game.
If there happens to be an injury or other interruption to the added time, the referee has at their discretion to extend the added minutes.
Added time originated in the late 1800s after teams started to kick the ball out of bounds after scoring a game-winning goal in an attempt to run the clock down and not leave enough time for the opposing team to try and score.
The game’s fourth official typically manages the time lost with two watches. One is used to stop time every time there is an injury, substitution, goal celebration, etc. The other watch is used to count the time spent on each stoppage of play.
Added time is only applied in professional leagues. College soccer and younger leagues play the designated periods dictated within their respective rule books, with potential overtime halves for certain age groups and leagues.
The average amount of added time to a half in a professional soccer game is three minutes. As the rule outlines, the added time in a game is at the discretion of the referee.
How Does Extra Time Work in Soccer?
When a game ends in a tie, extra time can be used to decide a winner. Under the Laws of Game recognized by FIFA, professional teams may play two additional 15-minute periods.
This extra time, more often referred to as overtime, is played in full and does not end once a player scores at the professional level.
Overtimes at the professional level are played out in their entirety to provide both teams an opportunity to win.
In professional and nonprofessional games, extra time is typically only used in tournaments, where a winner needs to be declared. This is the case for elimination and championship games.
When needed, extra time or overtime can be played out in two manners, sudden-victory (also known as sudden-death) or full play. Sudden victory, also referred to as the “golden goal”, is where the first team to score a goal during overtime wins the game.
During full play, teams play overtime in its entirety, with the team leading after 30 minutes declared the winner.
Extra time, or overtime, for nonprofessional games/leagues and how they are played are as follows:
- College Level – Two 10 minute overtime halves/sudden-victory
- High School Level – Two 10 minute overtime halves/full play
- Youth League (17U, 18U, 19U) – Two 15 minute overtime halves/determined by the league
- 15U & 16U – Two 15 minute overtime halves/determined by the league
- 13U & 14U – Two 10 minute overtime halves/determined by the league
- 11U & 12U – Two 10 minute overtime halves/determined by the league
- 9U & 10U – No overtime
- 6U, 7U, & 8U – No overtime
How Do Penalty Shootouts Work in Soccer?
When a game ends in a tie, teams transition into overtime as defined by their leagues and level of play.
If the game remains tied after the allotted amount of overtime, teams may transition to a shootout to determine the winner of the game. A shootout is essentially a penalty kick competition.
To begin a shootout, each team will line up their five best players to take a penalty kick. Each team then alternates sending one player to the penalty line to shoot against the opposing goalkeeper. The winner is the team that makes the most goals out of the five shots.
If the game remains tied after the initial five penalty kicks, each team will continue to send players to take penalty kicks. Players can’t take a second penalty shot until every player on the team (who was on the field) has taken a shot.
Each team receives the same number of penalty shots in a shootout. This gives the teams that shoot second in shootouts the opportunity to rebuttal if the opposing team scores.
Looking back, one of the most memorable shootouts took place in the 1999 Women’s World Cup finale. This match involved the United States and China playing to a draw, despite 30 minutes of overtime.
This led to a shootout and the rest was history.